In Their Own Words: Recent Transfer Gurnoor Atwal Has a Heart for the Elderly

Atwal spent her childhood Christmases at the assisted living home her parents own and run. Today? She wants to be a geriatric physician, carrying on the “family endeavor.”

by Hayden Royster | February 23, 2023

With the In Their Own Words series, we introduce you to the Gaels you need to meet—students, alums, faculty, and staff—and let them tell their stories, in their own words.

Meet Gurnoor Atwal '23: The daughter of two first-generation immigrants, she’s a recent transfer student, a Bay Area local, and an aspiring geriatric physician. 




Expected graduation date

Fall 2023


Fairfield, California

The family business

My parents own and run an assisted living home, Avalon Care Home II, in Fairfield. They started it when I was really little, around five years old. It was always a family endeavor; my mom is big on holidays, so we always made an effort to go for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter. But we’d go on the regular, too! Whenever we had time. 

Lessons from residents

The one thing I've heard time and time again from so many of our residents is that just talking to someone, just having someone to listen to them, makes such a difference in their day. That definitely stuck with me. 

Gurnoor Atwal in Bruso Hall
Climbing and exploring: Gurnoor Atwal in Brousseau Hall, with science labs on every floor  / Photography by Francis Tatem

What her childhood taught her

It’s really cool to be able to say that my parents are doing this amazing thing for a population that’s generally overlooked. Because it’s their life, it’s something I hold dear, too. It also gave me a broader appreciation for aging, seeing the toll it can take on people. I wanted to know more about it, so I could help people at that stage in life.  

The long-term plan 

I do want to pursue medicine; specifically, I'm hoping to become a physician and enter the field of geriatrics. My goal right now is to apply to medical schools this cycle and hopefully attend after I graduate Saint Mary’s.

On transferring: "I saw that Saint Mary's had so much to offer me, that I could really flourish here."

How she came to Saint Mary’s College

I was actually at another school for the first two years of undergrad, as part of their BS/MD program. It was definitely a formative experience; I wouldn't change anything about my path at all. But in my second year, things got a little bit uncertain. There were accreditation issues with the medical school itself. 

So I had to start looking for different options to fulfill my degree, just to make sure that I was on track for my goals. And it was through that process that I came across Saint Mary's, and I saw that Saint Mary's had so much to offer me, that I could really flourish here.

Her Saint Mary’s experience

Believe it or not, this university is a bit bigger than my last university! So I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the campus better. I am so in love with the scenery, with all the buildings. It's definitely a joy to walk to class. But beyond that, as far as students and professors go, I’ve generally met just amazing people. I've gotten to know people through classes, and I've even joined clubs. That's all been really great. 

Living to serve

I really love how Saint Mary’s puts a focus on community outreach and leadership. Being in an environment where that precedent is set has been incredible. Because, you know, I’m already pretty set on what my goals are. But going to a university where that’s what they support, and that’s where their ideals lie—it just helps you stay focused, I think.

(This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.)


Around 82 percent of eligible Saint Mary’s students are accepted into med school; that’s nearly double the national average. Learn more about our Science programs.

Interested in joining the Saint Mary’s community in 2023? Apply today

Hayden Royster is a Staff Writer at the Office of Marketing and Communications for Saint Mary's College. Write him.